Archive for March 12th, 2008

Get The Bastards

(Write About Stories That Are Several Days Old Day continues at Multi Medium…)

Oh, this is all kinds of awesome. I had heard of ProPublica, but I had just assumed it was going to be yet another Republican hit piece factory. Not so:

Since the late 1980s, [Herb and Marion Sandler] used their wealth to finance a variety of nonprofit organizations, including Human Rights Watch, the American Civil Liberties Union and Acorn, the grass-roots organizers…. In 2003, they started the Center for American Progress, which is intended to be a liberal counterweight to the heavyweight policy centers of the right, like the Heritage Foundation and the Cato Institute. So far, the Sandlers have given around $20 million to the center.


[I]n October 2006, with both of them in their mid-70s, they sold Golden West to Wachovia for $25 billion, reaping $2.4 billion from their stake in the company. They quickly put $1.4 billion into the small foundation they had been using to make their donations, which suddenly made the Sandler Foundation one of the 30 largest in the country. (The Sandlers, who oversee the foundation with three other board members, plan to put the rest of their money into the foundation eventually.) Then they moved into a small suite of offices in downtown San Francisco, hired minimal staff – the Sandlers hate bureaucracy – and got down to the business of giving away their fortune. Starting with, of all things, journalism.


[Former WSJ managing editor Paul] Steiger drew up a proposal for a nonprofit that would employ around 25 reporters and editors and would conduct the kind of ambitious investigations that only a handful of the country’s most prominent news organizations do as a matter of course. Although the Sandlers solicited plenty of other ideas besides Steiger’s, his was the one they loved. They told Steiger that they would finance it, but only if he would run it. After a little soul-searching, Steiger agreed. ProPublica — as it is called — opened its doors in early January and in recent weeks has made its first few hires and named a star-studded advisory board…. It intends to begin producing investigative articles by the summer and then give its biggest exposés, free, to major news outlets like “60 Minutes.” Although there have been nonprofit investigative efforts in the past, nobody has ever proposed a model quite like this before.


It starts with outrage,” Herb Sandler said. “You go a little crazy when power takes advantage of those without power. It could be political corruption — ”

“Or subprime lending,” Marion interrupted.

“The story of subprime is worse than anyone has written so far,” Herb said, shaking his head in dismay.

“It is,” Marion said, nodding in agreement.

…To listen to the Sandlers is to be in the presence of the kind of proud, righteous liberals who went out of fashion a long time ago. Dispassion and irony, the twin shields of the modern age, are not part of their makeup.


What the Sandlers want, clearly, is investigative journalism that leads to change in public policy or finds, as Herb put it to me, “the next Enron.” (“Get the bastards,” he said to me excitedly at another point.) …[I]t is not unlikely that ProPublica’s reporters will choose to go after a target on the left side of the political spectrum, especially if Democrats become the party in power in November. The Sandlers say they’re fine with that. But what if the stories die on the vine as sometimes happens? What if the big media outfits like The Times or “60 Minutes,” which have their own investigative staffs and tend to be proprietary about their work, decline to run ProPublica’s exposés? Will they be fine with that as well?

That last point is what worries me the most. If investigative reporting is drying up due to financial cutbacks, then there could very well be an eager market for independently produced (and funded) exposés. But if it’s drying up because the media don’t want to rock the boat, or displease their Republican corporate masters, or cut into Britney Time, then ProPublica’s distribution will be limited to blogs, alternative media, and probably YouTube.

Which is better than nothing – the blogs might occasionally shame the traditional media into covering their stories – but it sure would be nice if ProPublica had a reliable outlet for their stories. How about it, Mr. Soros?

I also wish they had come up with this idea about seven years earlier – it might have saved this country a whole lot of grief.

(h/t Caro Kay)

March 12th, 2008 at 11:05pm Posted by Eli

Entry Filed under: Coolness,Media


Great moments in tech support, courtesy of NYT’s David Pogue:

Caller: So, I’m having a problem with my mouse? It’s, like, squeaking?

Agent: I’m sorry, did you say squeaking?

Caller: That’s right. The faster I move it across the screen, the louder it squeaks.

Agent: I’m sorry—are you pressing your mouse up against the screen?

Caller: Well, sure! There’s a message that says, “Click here to continue!”


On one call, the caller seemed to be taking an inordinately long time to complete each instruction she was given.

Agent: Ma’am, I can’t help noticing that every time I give you an instruction, it takes a really long time before you get back to me. Is your computer that slow?

Caller: Oh, no, it’s just the stupid, stupid design of this computer. Every time I want to click something, I have to unplug the keyboard to plug in the mouse. And then every time I want to use the keyboard again, I have to unplug the mouse. Because there’s only one jack.

Agent: Ma’am, you do realize that there’s a jack on the keyboard itself? You’re supposed to plug the mouse into the keyboard, and the keyboard into the computer.

Caller: Are YOU KIDDING ME!? Oh, wait a minute—yes, I see it now! Oh, holy cow. That’s going to be so much easier!

Agent: Just out of curiosity, how long have you been using your computer that way?

Caller: Six weeks!


Agent: Certainly, sir. There are keyboard shortcuts for many of those commands. For example, suppose you want to trigger the Select All command…

[Canadian] Caller: Yes, I use that one all the time! How do I do it?

Agent: Well, you just press Control-A.

Caller (after a pause): Well, that’s not working for me.

Agent: Do you have a text document open in front of you?

Caller: Yes, I sure do.

Agent: OK, now press Control-A.

Caller: I am, but nothing happens.

Agent: The text isn’t highlighted?

Caller: No, there’s no change at all.

Agent: That’s odd. If you press Control-A, the whole document should be highlighted. Try it again. Press Control-A. Tell me exactly what’s happening.

Caller (nearing his Canadian breaking point): Listen. I’m pressing Control, eh? And nothing’s happening, eh?

Those keyboard shortcuts are especially handy if you’re unplugging your keyboard every time you use your mouse.

March 12th, 2008 at 09:09pm Posted by Eli

Entry Filed under: Technology,Weirdness

Black Privilege

Rush Limbaugh, 6/28/03:

I think what we’ve had here is a little social concern in the NFL. The media has been very desirous that a black quarterback do well. There is a little hope invested in McNabb, and he got a lot of credit for the performance of this team that he didn’t deserve. The defense carried this team.

Chris Matthews, 1/9/08:

Let’s not forget — and I’ll be brutal — the reason she’s a U.S. senator, the reason she’s a candidate for president, the reason she may be a front-runner is her husband messed around. That’s how she got to be senator from New York. We keep forgetting it. She didn’t win there on her merit. She won because everybody felt, “My God, this woman stood up under humiliation,” right? That’s what happened.

Geraldine Ferraro, 3/7/08:

If Obama was a white man, he would not be in this position. And if he was a woman (of any color) he would not be in this position. He happens to be very lucky to be who he is. And the country is caught up in the concept.

What the hell is wrong with these people??? How can anyone honestly believe that the world is just handed to minorities or women? Any preferential treatment at all (i.e., affirmative action) is far outweighed by the prejudices and disadvantages that it’s supposed to (ineffectually) counter. Can you really look me in the eye and tell me that if you were an unborn spirit floating in the void, and you wanted to be President Of The United States, or attain some other prestigious (okay, formerly prestigious) position, that your first choice would be to be born as a black man, or a woman who gets very publicly cheated on?

I sure as hell don’t think so. This kind of bullshit doesn’t surprise me coming from Rush or Matthews – as well-paid and well-fed white guys, the system’s worked out just great for them, and they don�t want to see it change one bit. At least not in a direction that might eventually result in Rachel Maddow or D.L. Hughley taking their jobs (wistful sigh).

But Ferraro should know better. She’s fought through irrational discrimination and hostility all her life, she knows what it’s like. Why on earth would she think that a black politician like Obama hasn’t had to do the same? I’m nowhere near qualified to compare the relative evilness of sexism and racism, but I know enough to recognize that they’re both Very Large Evils, and that neither one trumps the other.

I genuinely do not have a preference in this race (I’m pretty underwhelmed by both candidates), but this shit is just stupid. And while I admit I have not been keeping rigorous score, my gut impression is that there’s been a lot more aggravating crap coming from the Clinton campaign and Clinton surrogates than there is coming from Obama or his surrogates. Not necessarily racial, just aggravating, like her charming comment about how she and McCain are qualified to be commander-in-chief and Obama isn’t. I actually think she probably would be a marginally better president than Obama, but saying that the Republican candidate would be too is just beyond the pale.

Am I saying Obama didn’t say nice things about Reagan, or that one of his advisers didn’t call Hillary a monster, or that he doesn’t exploit the enthusiasm of the netroots while offering them little in return, or that he’s been some kind of courageous progressive crusader in the Senate? Hell no. I’m just saying that on balance, his campaign doesn’t gross me out nearly as much as Hillary’s does. Mark Penn? Terry McAuliffe? Eurgh.

2 comments March 12th, 2008 at 08:15pm Posted by Eli

Entry Filed under: Clinton,Democrats,Elections,Obama,Politics,Racism,Sexism,Wankers

B&W Sawhorse Photoblogging

Yes, sawhorses. I realize it’s unusually… specific, but I have enough shots of them for a photo post, so why not.

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Guarding some construction work.

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Taking a break by the parking garage.

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They’re like bats, they like to sleep upside down.

March 12th, 2008 at 07:47am Posted by Eli

Entry Filed under: Photoblogging,Pittsburgh

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